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The Jerusalem tinderbox in the wake of the Har Nof attack

The Jerusalem tinderbox in the wake of the Har Nof attack Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

Much is being written about the potentially explosive situation in Jerusalem in the wake of the bloody synagogue terror attack in the west Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Nof on Tuesday, which left four rabbis and a Druze policeman dead. This Update features some particularly insightful contributions.

The first comes from noted Israeli author and intellectual Yossi Klein Halevi (who recently visited Australia). Halevi begins by comparing the reaction to the latest attack - cheered by large segments of Palestinian society - with the reaction in Israel to the comparable actions of the Jewish mass murderer Baruch Goldstein...

Mahmoud Abbas and the Jerusalem disturbances

Mahmoud Abbas and the Jerusalem disturbances Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update contains material providing additional background to and analysis of the ongoing clashes in Jerusalem, which have led to several terror attacks, and left more Israelis dead from terrorism in the last month than in the past two years. The unrest has ostensibly been tied to claims about a supposed "threat" to the Temple Mount, holy to both Jews and Muslims, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. A good general summary of the situation was provided by Jamie Hyams in a blog earlier this week - this Update provides supplemental historical context and more up to date political analysis and background.

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US Mideast Policy and the Congressional Elections

US Mideast Policy and the Congressional Elections Categories: America, Israel, Middle East, Updates    

This Update features comment on how last week's US Congressional election - which saw the Republicans gain control of the Senate to add to their majority in the House of Representatives and made other major political gains - may affect US Middle East policy up until Nov. 2016, when a successor to US President Barack Obama will be elected.

Priest tells UN: Israel is the "only safe place" for Christians in the Middle East

Priest tells UN: Israel is the "only safe place" for Christians in the Middle East Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Updates    

Today Christians are the most persecuted religious minority in the world, according to a new report by Catholic charity "Aid to the Church in Need". At the launch of the report, Prince Charles commented in a video message, "It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East, an area where Christians have lived for 2,000 years and across which Islam spread in 700 AD, with people of different faiths living together peaceably for centuries."

At this time of suffering and persecution of Christian communities throughout the Middle East, Israel is the only country in the region where the Christian population is safe and growing. This important point was recently made in a powerful speech in Arabic to the UN Human Rights Council by Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth.

Carr's tall tales on settlement growth just plain false

Carr's tall tales on settlement growth just plain false Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

In his op-ed in the Weekend Australian, "Why I'm now a friend of Palestine rather than Israel" (paywall restricted) the new patron of the Labor Friends of Palestine, former foreign minister Bob Carr, makes the claim that "they [Israel's settlements] have doubled in the past 54 months alone".

This claim appears to be unsubstantiated fiction that may serve no useful purpose except to promote two complete and utter falsehoods: that new settlements are being built; and that housing expansion for Jews in the West Bank is higher than historical averages.

Al-Aqsa, incitement and the car intifada

Al-Aqsa, incitement and the car intifada Author: Jamie Hyams Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Some say that Israel may be in the grip of a "third intifada". While the first was characterised by civil disobedience, rioting and rock-throwing, and the second by large scale terrorism, most notable suicide bombing, this one has so far featured attacks by drivers ramming their cars into pedestrians, a far more difficult form of attack to prevent. Such an intifada would be disastrous for both Israelis and Palestinians, but at least some of the impetus for it appears to be coming from the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas himself.

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Sinai jihadists pledge support to ISIS

Sinai jihadists pledge support to ISIS Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Palestinians, Updates    

Terrorist activity in the Sinai Peninsula has escalated, and recently jihadist groups there have pledged their support to the ‘Islamic State'. In the worst assault in years, two attacks on Egyptian military positions in the Sinai on October 24 killed at least 33 Egyptian soldiers.  In response, Egypt declared a state of emergency, closed its Rafah border crossing with the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, and decreed that it would demolish 800 homes along the Gaza border, displacing around 10,000 people, to create a 500 metre wide buffer zone with Gaza in order to prevent fighters and weapons streaming into Egypt.

Joint AIJAC-AJC meetings in Jakarta, Canberra

Joint AIJAC-AJC meetings in Jakarta, Canberra Categories: America, Asia, Australasia, Israel, Media Releases    

David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) was recently in Australia, Singapore and Indonesia, in a joint visit with, and coordinated by, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), a longtime partner of AJC.

AIJAC's Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein, who organised the Jakarta, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra program, was joined by the Harris led AJC delegation in meetings with senior politicians, and prominent decision and opinion makers in each city.

Sorry, Tony: UNSC 242 says borders are negotiable

Sorry, Tony: UNSC 242 says borders are negotiable Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Palestinians, United Nations, Updates    

Tony Walker's recent column "First Principles in the Middle East" (AFR, October 25 - subscription required) resurrected a specious claim about UN Security Council Resolution 242 - the blueprint passed in November 1967 that created the land-for-peace formula for peace between Israel and its neighbours.

Walker claimed that the "Lack of the definite article ‘the' before the word ‘territories' has been misinterpreted by Israeli propagandists to argue [UNSC 242's call for Israeli withdrawal] does not extend to all territories occupied in 1967."

However, an examination of the stated intent of the resolution's drafters, the newspaper accounts of the time it was written and passed, and expert analysis shows that the real misinterpretation here is by Walker.

The Last Word: Stage Frights

The Last Word: Stage Frights Author: Jeremy Jones Categories: Antisemitism, Australasia, Holocaust/ War Crimes, Terrorism    

In New York, the Metropolitan Opera began showcasing the opera, "The Death of Klinghoffer", which has rarely been praised on the basis of artistic merit but gained notoriety for promoting a moral equivalence between murderers (in this case, terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Front) and their victim (in this case, wheelchair-bound American Leon Klinghoffer).

Charles Ascher Small and other scholars have outlined some of the intellectual and moral failings of the opera, which begin with the title - why wasn't it accurately dubbed "The Murder", rather than "The Death"?

Abu Sayyaf - Jihadists or ordinary thugs?

Abu Sayyaf - Jihadists or ordinary thugs? Author: Zachary Abuza Categories: Asia, Islamic Extremism, Terrorism    

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has returned to the international spotlight following its July pledge of allegiance to ISIS and its 24 September threat to behead a 71-year-old German hostage unless a US$5.6 million ransom was paid and Germany pledged to quit the coalition attacking the Islamic State. Both moves were opportunistic attempts to get back into international media attention following years of decline.

Today, the ASG is a localised kidnap for ransom gang with few if any ties to global terrorism. That's not to write it off: Its resurgence comes at a time when the United States is drawing down its presence in the southern Philippines, and this will give the resilient ASG a new lease on life.

Hebron Diary

Hebron Diary Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories:

"Excuse me, looking for a guide?" While standing in the plaza outside of Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs - the burial place of Judaism's great patriarchs and matriarchs and its second holiest site, I was approached by a Palestinian man in his early twenties, waving a brochure.

I wasn't really looking for a guide - I had come to the city to independently review the situation and compare it to some of the recent reports I had seen in Australian media.

Time for Plan B on Iran's Nukes
Irans' heavy water nuclear reactor at Arak

Time for Plan B on Iran's Nukes Author: Dennis Ross Categories: International Security, Iran    

It is no accident that hardly anyone involved in the Iranian nuclear negotiations has expressed optimism about meeting the November 24 deadline for a comprehensive agreement. The Iranian and US governments are continuing to meet regularly but there are few signs of meaningful progress.

Indeed, the essence of the deal that has always made most sense - a rollback of the Iranian nuclear program in return for a rollback of sanctions - seems increasingly beyond reach.

Grounded in Iraq?

Grounded in Iraq? Author: Jonathan Spyer Categories: Iraq, Middle East, Syria    

The United States and its allies have launched a military campaign whose stated goal is, in the words of US President Barack Obama, to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL) established by Sunni jihadis in a contiguous land area stretching from western Iraq to the Syrian-Turkish border.

As the aerial campaign begins in earnest, many observers are wondering what exactly its tactical and strategic objectives are, and how they will be achieved.

Summer in Paris

Summer in Paris Author: Robert Wistrich Categories: Antisemitism, Europe    

On July 13, the eve of Bastille Day (a national holiday in France), a mob laid siege to the Don Abravanel synagogue in the Eleventh district of Paris. The "protesters," mainly of North African Arab origin, had broken off from a larger demonstration supported by a small band of left-wing allies - Communists, militant anti-Zionist Trotskyists, a few environmentalists, and trade unionists - waving Palestinian flags and chanting "Death to the Jews" (Mort aux Juifs) along with the Islamist battle cry, Allahu Akbar!

After 75 Years

After 75 Years Author: Arsen Ostrovsky Categories: Antisemitism, Europe    

Almost unnoticed, Sept. 1, 2014 marked the 75th Anniversary of the commencement of World War II, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, formally unleashing the darkest chapter in European history. However, insofar as the European Jewish community is concerned, we must ask: has the situation once again come full circle, endangering Jewish life in Europe?

Today, merely 75 years after World War II commenced and 69 years after the Holocaust concluded, antisemitism and hatred against Jews are once again at record levels.

Europa Europa: Writing on the Walls Author: Douglas Davis Categories: Antisemitism, Europe    

On a sublime autumn afternoon my bus rumbles towards the Rue des Rosiers. It is the heart of Paris, the heart of the Marais quarter, and also the heart of the Jewish community. Or it was.

As the bus passes the Louvre, a bleak plaster wall is covered with a huge piece of graffiti. It is the detritus of riots a few weeks earlier, ostensibly aimed at supporting Gaza but also trashing synagogues and Jewish shops. The graffiti contains a simple message: "Paris Loves Gaza".

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Scribblings: Reality and Racism Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel    

There has been a lot of talk in the media about how Israel is supposedly becoming a more right-wing, less democratic and more "racist" society. Anecdotal evidence cited to support this view usually includes things like controversial Israeli legislative proposals, incidents of racist violence or vandalism, and racially problematic statements by public figures there.

Editorial: Mahmoud Abbas’ folly Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

On October 22, Palestinian terrorist Abd al-Rahman al-Shaloudi ploughed his car into a packed light-rail stop in Jerusalem, murdering newborn Chaya Zisel Baron and Ecuadorian student Karen Yemina Mosquera and injuring eight other Israelis. Al-Shaloudi, who was shot and killed by Israeli police, appears to have been affiliated with Hamas. However what was particularly worrying was the response by official media and senior officials in the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority (PA), led by Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas' Fatah movement published an online tribute describing al-Shaloudi as a "heroic martyr" to be saluted for his "Jerusalem operation, in which settlers in the occupied city of Jerusalem were run over." A senior aide to Abbas, Sultan Abu al-Einein, hailed him as a "heroic Martyr" who was "murdered in cold blood."

This is part of a larger trend.

The Success of Islamist Propaganda

The Success of Islamist Propaganda Categories: Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

In the wake of a series of apparent Islamist "lone wolf" terror attacks in Canada and New York, this Update looks at the sophisticated media strategy that Islamist groups - and especially ISIS - are increasingly employing to further their cause and recruit volunteers and sympathisers. It also looks at Hamas' social media strategy during the recent Gaza conflict.

Moral clarity about Islamic State needs zero tolerance of terrorism

Moral clarity about Islamic State needs zero tolerance of terrorism Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians, Terrorism    

IN Ottawa on Wednesday, a lone gunman rampaged in and around Canada's parliament, killing a Canadian soldier before being killed. Authorities said he was a convert to Islam, radicalised to commit his act of terrorism.

That day in Jerusalem, a newborn girl was run down and killed in her pram when a vehicle intentionally rammed a crowded tram stop. The Palestinian driver, killed while fleeing, had an extensive ­arrest record for nationalistic violence and familial connections to Hamas. He was glorified on Hamas-affiliated websites as a martyr and a Hamas spokesman said his attack was only "natural".

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Statement: The death of Gough Whitlam

Statement: The death of Gough Whitlam Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Australasia, Media Releases    

Gough Whitlam was a towering figure in Australian political life, who brought Labor back to power after a long period in the political wilderness and, despite his short tenure as PM, made many substantial and significant initiatives and reforms in areas such as education, the arts, the environment, immigration and multiculturalism.

The history books will certainly record the profound effects the Whitlam government had in shaping the Australia both of today and into the future.

No to backburner, yes to a two-track strategy

No to backburner, yes to a two-track strategy Author: Glen Falkenstein Categories: International Security, Iran, Op-eds    

Iran's securing nuclear weapons would destabilise a region already suffering from mass upheaval, in addition to having dire security implications for the rest of the world. Multilateral efforts to deter the sadistic actions of ISIS, a crucial priority, seem to have distracted from international efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program. As identified in the recent post by Andrew Nikolic, a nuclear Iran remains a broader strategic priority and potentially worse threat.